How the fear of death incites suicide in men and women according to Classical literature

Kathryn Stevens Ivy

Abstract


In this paper, I will explain how a few Roman writers explore the process and contemplation that leads to suicide, particularly Lucretius through his work De Rerum Natura. I will contrast this Epicurean stance to Stoic perspectives using Vergil’s epic Aeneid, Seneca’s Epistles and Cicero’s Dream of Scipio and Tusculans. Each of these authors comments on the act of suicide and the social connotations that accompany self-murder, including its reception based on the suicide’s gender. These authors’ use of suicide and a person’s virtus shows how they perceive gender equality or inequality when it comes to death. All of the authors examined in this paper agree that the fear of the death is an important issue in the Roman world. Lucretius’ approach to encounter one’s fear of death is focus more on physics; this enables him to take a non-gendered approach because all humans are made up of the same atoms just in different compositions. However, Vergil, Seneca, and Cicero construct systems that examine the fear of death from a more ethical side. I will explain that, unlike his contemporaries, Lucretius portrays suicide and the fear of death through specifically gender-neutral references to dispel its fear from all his readers; he explains that everyone experiences the same death and we can all attain virtus before death through subscribing to Epicurean ideals.

Keywords


Catullus; Vergil; Stoic; Seneca; Lucretius

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15695/vurj.v9i0.3800

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